The Morality of Intervention

A civil war between government troops and ethnic minority rebels
rages in Darfur, Sudan, that has claimed 50,000 lives already and
put millions of others at risk as they get caught in the
cross-fire. But much-needed military and humanitarian intervention
is unlikely to come anytime soon from the United States. Thanks to
the debacle of Iraq, the distrust of the United States that the
invasion has created, and the American people’s increasing
frustration and alienation from Bush’s wartime policies, any action
taken to prevent genocide would be a political foible of the worst
kind. It seems the well of US compassion, if one could ever have
called a mixture of paranoia, cowboy machismo, and tepid concern
just that, has run dry. And with it any potential for intervention
in the Sudanese crisis.

How can two very different crises come to look the same? Iraq
was a moral crusade pitched in a combined rhetoric of humanitarian
intervention and self defense. The line between the two became
blurred, became headed under the broad category of ‘Do the right
thing.’ But now, what was never a simplistic question of ‘doing the
right thing’ to begin with, shows itself in all its complexity and
the Bush White House cannot afford to take anymore leaps in the
name of ethics.

And the world is not prepared to take leaps for Bush.
Deteriorating relations between the United States and many
countries complicates the question of intervention and ‘just war.’
While Britain and Australia have both expressed readiness to commit
troops to Sudan, it is almost impossible for Muslim nations in the
Security Council such as Algeria and Pakistan to agree to U.S.-led
action against an Arab League member like Sudan. The Arab world’s
tolerance for the atrocities committed by their rulers is indeed a
cause for despair. But the occupation of Iraq, including the
treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the U.S.’s
total support for Ariel Sharon, and the xenophobic anti-Muslim and
anti-Arab outbursts in the United States, make that stone harder to
cast. And even if they were to accept the need for intervention of
some kind in Sudan, why would they entrust George Bush with such a
Elizabeth Dwoskin

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